On the same day that Elon Musk defied local regulations and reopened Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, the CEO put a new person in charge of production.
Musk named Richard Miller, who was director of paint operations at Tesla, to head production at the factory, according to an internal email sent to employees Monday and viewed by TechCrunch. It appears that Miller replaces Jatinder Dhillon, who was the company’s manufacturing director. CNBC reported in March that Dhillon had left the company, although his LinkedIn profile still shows he is at the company and in the same role.
The email reads, “Due to excellent performance as head of paint operations in Fremont, Richard Miller is hereby promoted to overall head of Fremont Production. Congratulations!”
An email has been sent to Musk and Tesla for comment.
The promotion comes at a chaotic moment for Musk and Tesla. Production at the company’s Fremont factory — where its electric vehicles are assembled — has been suspended since March 23 due to stay-at-home orders issued by Alameda County and Gov. Gavin Newsom. Musk restarted production Monday in direct conflict with county orders.
Tesla had planned to bring back about 30% of its factory workers May 8 as part of its reopening plan after Newsom issued new guidance that would allow manufacturers to resume operations. However, the governor’s guidance included a warning that local governments could keep more restrictive rules in place. Alameda County, along with several other Bay Area counties and cities, have extended the stay-at-home orders through the end of May. The orders were revised and did ease some of the restrictions, but did not lift the order for manufacturing.
Musk has been at war with Alameda County, specifically aiming his ire at health officials, ever since the order was extended. Over the weekend, he threatened to sue and pull operations out of California. Tesla filed a lawsuit later that day against Alameda County seeking injunctive relief.
On Monday, Musk escalated matters further and announced on Twitter that he had restarted production.
Musk wrote he would “be on the line,” a reference to the assembly line at the factory where Tesla makes the Model X, Model S, Model 3 and Model Y. He added, “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”
Alameda County issued a statement Monday acknowledging that it had learned that the Tesla factory had opened beyond the allowable “minimum basic operations.”
“We have notified Tesla that they can only maintain Minimum Basic Operations until we have an approved plan that can be implemented in accordance with the local public health order,” the statement sent to TechCrunch said. “We are addressing this matter using the same phased approach we use for other businesses which have violated the order in the past, and we hope that Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures.”
The county added that since April 30 it has “continued to collaborate in good faith with Tesla to present a plan for reopening the Fremont plant that ensures the safety of their thousands of employees and the communities in which they live and work, and that also aligns with local and state requirements.”
“We continue to move closer to an agreed upon safety plan for reopening beyond Minimum Basic Operations by working through steps that Tesla has agreed to adopt,” the statement continued. “These steps include improving employee health screening procedures and engaging front-line staff on their concerns and feedback regarding safety protocols.”
The county said it expected Tesla to submit a site-specific plan later Monday as required under the State of California guidance and checklist for manufacturing issued on May 7.